Dinosaur fossils uncovered five years ago in North Dakota by Palm Beach County Paleontologist Robert DePalma prove the magnitude of an asteroid that struck the Earth roughly 66 million years ago and wiped out more than three-quarters of all species.
According to scientists, the asteriod struck the Yucatan Peninsula, killed the dinosaurs that roamed the planet and caused the Earth's first ice age.
“What this particular discovery shows us is the magnitude of those waves that came from the Gulf of Mexico penetrating all the way inside,” says Florida International University (FIU) professor and sedimentologist Florentin Maurrasse, who has been analyzing DePalma's samples.
Maurrassee joined Sundial to talk about the details he has discovered about the asteroid.
WLRN: Give us a sense of how massive that asteroid was.
Maurrasse: Just visualize a boulder 10 kilometers across or six miles across hitting the Earth. Visualize this hitting Dade County for instance. What would you see? It's incredible. You would have materials flying all over the world from that impact site and the rocks at that impact site will be molting up flying as a little splash of liquid rocks and then they fall back to the Earth.
The asteroid strike was in Yucatan, Mexico. You've been down there. What do you see when you're there? What do you find there that tells you what happened?
There is a break between the sediments. You see sets of rocks, or what we call sediments, that look very different from the one below and the one above. When you look very close then you see there are some kind of structures and all kinds of deposits that really don't belong there.
Basically when you look at the layers over the millions of years there is that one layer that tells us this is where there was a stop of life. Everything ended here because there was something cataclysmic happened.
Why are you so fascinated by asteroid strikes and end of Earth, life-ending cataclysms?
When we look at the geologic record there are always species that come in and out. They become extinct but for a long time geologists and paleontologists could not answer the question why at that particular level we had this sudden extinction of not just the dinosaurs, but hundreds and thousands of species all over the world. So it was a big puzzle until of course the Alvarez's find some deposits in Italy and then they proposed the impact hypothesis, which slowly became really very well known and accepted. So it defies the fascination of all that it is so exceptional to find the evidence that could have really wiped out all species all of a sudden.
So this evidence that DePalma found is the definitive piece of evidence we need. Can we now say this as if this is what happened?
Oh yeah that's definitive evidence. What this particular discovery shows us is the magnitude of those waves that came from the Gulf of Mexico penetrating all the way inside, more than 1,500 kilometers from the impact site. So that was extraordinary.